Home > musing, statistics > People hate me, I must be doing something right

People hate me, I must be doing something right

September 30, 2014

Not sure if you’ve seen this recent New York Times article entitled Learning to Love Criticism, but go ahead and read it if you haven’t. The key figures:

…76 percent of the negative feedback given to women included some kind of personality criticism, such as comments that the woman was “abrasive,” “judgmental” or “strident.” Only 2 percent of men’s critical reviews included negative personality comments.

This is so true! I re-re-learned this recently (again) when I started podcasting on Slate and the iTunes reviews of the show included attacks on me personally. For example: “Felix is great but Cathy is just annoying… and is not very interesting on anything” as well as “The only problem seems to be Cathy O’Neill who doesn’t have anything to contribute to the conversation…”

By contrast the men on the show, Jordan and Felix, are never personally attacked, although Felix is sometimes criticized for interrupting people, mostly me. In other words, I have some fans too. I am divisive.

So, what’s going on here?

Well, I have a thick skin already, partly from blogging and partly from being in men’s fields all my life, and partly just because I’m an alpha female. So what that means is that I know that it’s not really about me when people anonymously complain that I’m annoying or dumb. To be honest, when I see something like that, which isn’t a specific criticism that might help me get better but is rather a vague attack on my character, I immediately discount it as sexism if not misogyny, and I feel pity for the women in that guy’s life. Sometimes I also feel pity for the guy too, because he’s stunted and that’s sad.

But there’s one other thing I conclude when I piss people off: that I’m getting under their skin, which means what I’m saying is getting out there, to a wider audience than just people who already agree with me, and if that guy hates me then maybe 100 other people are listening and not quite hating me. They might even be agreeing with me. They might even be changing their minds about some things because of my arguments.

So, I realize this sounds twisted, but when people hate me, I feel like I must be doing something right.

One other thing I’ll say, which the article brings up. It is a luxury indeed to be a woman who can afford to be hated. I am not at risk, or at least I don’t feel at all at risk, when other people hate me. They are entitled to hate me, and I don’t need to bother myself about getting them to like me. It’s a deep and wonderful fact about our civilization that I can say that, and I am very glad to be living here and now, where I can be a provocative and opinionated intellectual woman.

Fuck yes! Let’s do this, people! Let’s have ideas and argue about them and disagree! It’s what freedom is all about.

Categories: musing, statistics
  1. September 30, 2014 at 8:58 am

    I’m liking this — you must be doing something wrong.


  2. September 30, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Every day in so many different areas the same kind of weird criticism: too young, too old, too pretty, too ugly, too annoying, too quiet… We have a long way to go…
    Let’s start having good arguments! Thanks for the article!


  3. DW
    September 30, 2014 at 9:20 am

    I disagree with you often enough (inside my head, no flaming) but I’m very happy that you’re on that podcast. There aren’t many people who can articulate your perspective as well while simultaneously having the data chops. Came across you via your econtalk interview.

    Keep it up!


  4. lmsacs
    September 30, 2014 at 9:23 am

    This is why I love you!


  5. RealityCheckJustBounced
    September 30, 2014 at 9:24 am

    I’m glad you feel comfortable in the role of provocateur, but don’t get too comfortable. Arrogance leads you to stop questioning your assumptions, which leads to being wrong, which leads to being unseated by someone like yourself… regardless of gender. Being hated does not equate to being right, only provocative. One can certainly be provocative and wrong simultaneously.


  6. September 30, 2014 at 9:30 am

    geee, I almost always agree with you, and not that tepid, capitalistic-tool, Felix (…not to get too personal ;-)). Am I doing something wrong?


    • 101North
      September 30, 2014 at 1:51 pm

      Agree with Shecky R. I’ve listened to all of the Money podcasts from the top and read most of the iTune comments this morning. As a Left Coast securiites lawyer, I’d say your contrbutions are always the most accurate and thought provoking on the more serious financial issues: like how is it the Wall Street criminals haven’t been charged and never will be? Does it take a math PhD to have a strong sense of right and wrong? You are generally the leader of those discussions. Keep it up.


  7. Keating Willcox
    September 30, 2014 at 11:28 am

    I have a different take. If, for example, I ask the plumber a question and I hear a strident voice and some f bombs, it is expected. If I ask my lawyer and get the same tone, I am a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of the tone, and would be distracted by it.

    Men and women have different language in business. If a woman and man say the same words, even women will hear a more intense and strident message. Women need to use a quiet tone, more logic and evidence, and a gracious sensibility to avoid coming across as strident. It is not hard to do. It can make or break a negotiation or career. The real winners are all charmers.


    • Ursula
      September 30, 2014 at 12:16 pm

      So, in other words, there’s definitely a double standard for the sexes, but you’re OK with that?


      • Keating Willcox
        September 30, 2014 at 1:43 pm

        Not really. The survey reflects society. I don’t feel the need for anyone to speak harshly to me, but frankly, I listen to the words and not the tone. But, as far as advice to women, until society decides to change, my advice might be helpful.


        • Nutella
          October 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm

          You seem to be saying that society will never ‘decide to change’ and women therefore must restrict themselves in order to fit into society’s unchanged stereotypes rather than anyone even trying to change society. Sounds like an excellent plan! If the system is unfair to women then women must change.


    • October 1, 2014 at 12:40 pm

      On the one hand, you’re right. On the other hand, you fail to notice that the game is rigged so that when women use that quiet, logical tone they’ll be ignored. One way around this is by hiring a guy in a hoodie or a suit to say your words for you (hoodie reference: http://www.wired.com/2014/07/gender-gap/). But then that guy’s gotta get paid. Unfortunately playing by the rules of the game means that women will lose no matter what.

      I don’t play games that are designed so I’ll lose.

      Doesn’t seem like Cathy’s into that either.


  8. Thanks
    September 30, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks for this. I love your blog, and as someone who frequently gets engrossed in possibly pointless internet arguments trying to advocate similar things, this post was comforting. Keep fighting the good fight.


  9. cat
    September 30, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    With all the news these last few weeks about the major flaws in our society we cant seem to fix has me waiting on the meteor.


  10. Auros
    September 30, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    You’re definitely my favorite member of the Money cast.

    Can you maybe come back next Saturday and school Jordan on how backwards some of his writings about marriage are? After his recent comments on the lack of “marriageable” men, I was questioning whether a chunk of what he was seeing was simply that women in every age group tend to marry men a little bit older. And then he sent me this link ( http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/10/sorry-marriage-is-a-luxury-good/281016/ ), which, just, ew. “Getting married, and staying married, is one of the surest ways of securing a middle class life.” No no no. Getting married does not “secure a middle class life.” If you have two people living together who are not already middle class — working 4-5 part-time jobs between the pair of them — and then they get married, they don’t *poof* magically turn into a middle class couple. How can anyone take that idea seriously? Yes, there are some tax benefits, but they’re pretty insubstantial if you’re a low-income family.

    And his figures about the fall in the ratio of men to women in the never-married population looks to me like it’s primarily driven by the denominator. Women no longer feel like they’ll be old maids if they put off marriage. So the ratio of never-marrieds has gone from having women as 35% of the never-marrieds, to 45%. That’s almost entirely good, if you ask me. You also see that women who get knocked up in a partnership where they like the guy but don’t feel like he’ll work out long term, no longer feel pressured into marrying anyways (and then divorcing later). So, for instance, I have a 40-year-old never-married female friend who has a son who just started college. She’s a successful IT manager. She probably would’ve had *more* trouble getting her career going if she’d stayed with the dad — she would’ve been more tied down to one location, more stressed out trying to make the relationship work, etc. So, again: Yay, women’s liberation! And more generally, yay for people of either sex *not* impulsively marrying when they’re too young!

    (There is perhaps something strange about the degree to which the “marriage is the capstone” idea has taken hold, and something pernicious about families below the median income blowing tens of thousands feeding the Wedding Industrial Complex when they finally do tie the knot. But both of these seem like minor side-notes relative to the simple fact that people don’t feel like they know for sure that they’ll be receiving a paycheck next month.)

    It would be nice to kill off the kind of toxic masculinity that keeps men OUT of industries that are expanding, but that have been traditionally dominated by women (and that are low-paid in part because they’re seen as “women’s work”). See, for instance: child- and elder-care. And it would also be nice to make the kinds of jobs that are now available have better wages and security. Both of those would tend to give people more stability, and with more stability, more of them would marry.

    It’s certainly true that male-heavy industries were hit hard in the Great Recession and have never really recovered, and so it’s probably right that men, more than women, have been destabilized, and it’s probably also true (though irrational) that a couple is more willing to get married when the man is economically stable but the woman is not. But this is ultimately about economic phenomena that affect both sexes, and we should not expect marriage to be a solution to those deeper problems.


    • September 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      I definitely think Jordan has his cause and effect mixed up here, at various levels.


  11. Mike
    September 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Actually, there are quite a few men out here reading your blog that dig it. Don’t let the haters get to you and stay strong! Let the number of unique views/readers be your metric of success, not what some frustrated punk writes from the comfort of his desk.


  12. crocodilechuck
    September 30, 2014 at 4:52 pm


    You rock.


  13. September 30, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    This reminds me of my high school journalism teacher, who was particularly happy when some students decided to erect posters making fun of our paper’s design and style around the school. Her opinion was that “we’re prominent enough to be satired. This means we’re important!”


  14. prubin73
    September 30, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    I’m not sure what sort of “critical reviews” are being considered in the NYT article, but some of my male friends and I express to each other “critical reviews” of various talking heads (sports shows, news shows, commentary shows), and male cohosts are frequently identified as “asshole”, “crazy” or “crazy asshole”, and are mocked for constant interruptions, gratuitous hand waving and gesticulating, and most especially for shouting in (what I hope is feigned) excitement over every point they want to make. I would frame those assessments as “negative personality comments”. (FWIW, I rarely use or hear “asshole” in the context of a woman.)


    • September 30, 2014 at 5:10 pm

      Yes but it’s almost a compliment really, in that context. Like, my two sons like to name their teams silly names like “The Sander Sucks Team” and “The Aise Is A Loser Team” just for fun when they’re playing something as simple as the game of war with a deck of cards, and there’s only one player per team. It’s a way of being affectionate without seeming too emotional.

      In other words, it’s a very different context. I don’t think you see “asshole” on end-of-year reviews that often.


      • prubin73
        September 30, 2014 at 5:34 pm

        I agree with your last comment (end of year reviews), because those are formal documents (that might move up the food chain, and might have legal ramifications). Trust me, though, that when my buddy and I mock certain commentators, it’s most definitely not a compliment — and we’re not mocking them for doing their jobs advancing discourse in directions with which we disagree.


  15. September 30, 2014 at 10:40 pm

    If I’d left a review, especially early on, it would have been that the guys interrupted you too much. I think they’re improving, though.


  16. October 1, 2014 at 4:03 am

    Hate is a strong emotion and I doubt that many of the flamers actually feel that much. The anonymity and remoteness of internet commenting just lowers most people’s threshold and encourages exaggeration.

    To tip the gender balance a bit, I don’t listen to the podcast because I don’t like one of your male colleagues on it. Now, I don’t leave flaming comments against him (on the podcast or his other work) because that’s not my style. Conversely, I don’t offer him constructive criticism because that takes greater effort and I expect it either won’t be seen or will be ignored.

    In our firm, we tried to have a culture that encouraged constructive criticism and it didn’t really work. People weren’t mean to each other, they just didn’t offer criticism. What we found is that the only way to get constructive criticism was to ask someone for it explicitly, and usually focus their attention on a specific piece of work. Oh, and you have to be sincere in engaging with the criticism, otherwise they won’t bother the next time.


  17. lawrence castiglione
    October 1, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    Take heart Cathy, my doctoral adviser told me more than fifty years ago: “You wouldn’t worry about what people think of you if you knew how seldom they did.”


  18. October 2, 2014 at 1:56 am

    Reblogged this on S3xy Holistic Life and commented:
    I like this – she must be doing something wrong?!


  19. October 6, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Good on ya for calling out the guys using “open kimono” in last weeks podcast! I noticed it immediately as symptomatic of the good ol’ boys tone of the whole episode. Glad to hear you back in the studio this week, keeping things real.


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